Davos 2021: Global Covid Vaccine Rollout Will Require Fighting Misinformation
Careful planning, a focus on equity and affordability, and efforts to combat misinformation will define how successfully countries vaccinate their people against the coronavirus, world leaders said Monday at the World Economic Forum.
Rapid, science-driven approaches to controlling the Covid-19 pandemic helped many countries in the Asia-Pacific region bring their domestic outbreaks under control last year, noted speakers at a Caixin-sponsored panel on pandemic responses in the eastern hemisphere.
The discussion, part of the annual Davos summit, was held as countries roll out plans to inoculate people against the virus, which has infected nearly 100 million people and killed more than 2.1 million worldwide since first being detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The weeklong gathering of global luminaries is taking place online this year due to the pandemic. The panel was moderated by Li Xin, vice president of Caixin Media and managing director of Caixin Global.
Successful vaccination programs will depend on leveraging existing supply chains, prioritizing vulnerable groups, mobilizing populations to return for follow-up doses, and providing equitable access to affordable shots, said Shobana Kamineni, the executive vice-chair of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd., an Indian health care provider.
Effective plans will also ensure that vaccines reach the estimated 60 to 70 million people worldwide living in “ungoverned” or “unreached” areas, while continuing to provide access to existing vaccines for other harmful diseases, said Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Countries could consider a “balanced approach” that combines government planning with private sector participation to manage vaccine rollouts, said Gong Yingyin, the founder and chairwoman of Beijing-based Yidu Tech Inc., a provider of medical data platforms.
Concern has mounted in many countries over the past few months that public suspicion of vaccines could slow efforts to inoculate large numbers of people.
In response, New Zealand’s foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta said the island nation was targeting a “robust domestic assurance process” to approve vaccines for domestic use and gather reliable data to dispel misinformation around getting the shots.
The country’s challenge was to “try and ensure that the body of knowledge around vaccinations for Covid is not overshadowed by views within our community around vaccination per se,” she said.
Several participants noted that rapid, science-driven responses to Covid-19 outbreaks in a number of Asia-Pacific countries had allowed governments to wrest a measure of control over the virus and reduced fatality rates.
China’s embrace of technology, characterized by data modeling, artificial intelligence and automated alert systems, allowed the government to shape policies capable of snuffing out local outbreaks while minimizing the epidemic’s impact on the economy, said Gong.
New Zealand’s decision to “go hard and go fast” in testing, tracing and isolating people suspected to have been exposed to the pathogen underpinned its globally lauded response to the pandemic last year, said Mahuta.
A focus on keeping the general public informed of pandemic developments and efforts to guard against so-called “pandemic fatigue” bolstered the country’s fight against Covid-19, she added.
India’s judicious use of lockdowns, mask-wearing and social distancing measures helped it achieve one of the world’s lowest mortality rates, while its role as a manufacturing hub for medical equipment and pharmaceuticals helped it provide much-needed relief to communities at comparatively low cost, said Kamineni.
Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (firstname.lastname@example.org) and editor Joshua Dummer (email@example.com)
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